5 things to watch for the 2023 NTT INDYCAR Series season

5th Indy 500 For Helio Castroneves? Dixon 7th Championship?

The big storyline entering this season has to be Helio Castroneves’ pursuit of a fifth Indianapolis 500 crown. That’s something that has never been done in the past 106 years of this race and he’ll try again to win No. 5. AJ Foyt was the first to accomplish the feat of the four win club in 1977. He made 15 attempts after to score his fifth win. He’d never do so with only scoring two top fives after including a runner-up finish in 1979.

Al Unser was the next to join the four win club in 1987. He’d try five more times to earn a fifth ‘500 triumph with finishes of 3rd, 24th, 13th, 3rd and 12th respectively.

Rick Mears joined in 1991. A 26th place finish in 1992’s race was his final shot.

Now, Castroneves is in the club. Can he get his fifth crown in May? That’s going to be a huge storyline that month again as he scored a top 10 last May.

Also, can Scott Dixon earn his seventh series championship this year too? That’s another big one. He, Castroneves and Power are generational drivers. I think we’ll look back on this era and one could argue that this was the Foyt vs. Andretti vs. Unser rivalries of the 21st century.

When looking at the top of all the major statistical categories for the series, Dixon, Castroneves and Power’s names are found near the top of them all. How much closer to the top can each get in them in 2022?

Dixon has six championships. Only AJ Foyt has more at seven. Can Dixon tie him for that mark next year?

Dixon, has 53 wins to go along with those six titles. Only AJ Foyt’s 67 wins is ahead. Out of the last 20 seasons, Dixon has had at the very least two victories in 17 of them including 15 of the last 17 years.

He’s also scored 49 runner-up finishes over the course of his career. Only Andretti (56) has more. Dixon has had nine runner-up finishes the last four years combined. So, he has a great shot of getting passed Andretti very soon.

Combine those, Dixon has 103 top two finishes in INDYCAR history. Andretti has 108 but it took him 407 starts to do so. Dixon has made 368 career starts. Foyt, has 97 career top two finishes but has done so in 369 starts.

As you can see, Dixon has a better percentage of all starts landing him a top two finish. Unser, has a 27-percent mark with Foyt holding a 26-percent rate. The next best is Bobby Unser (25%) with 65 top two finishes. The next most top two finishes overall? Michael Andretti with 76.

Dixon, is 26 clear of that and still has more years left in him.

Dixon also has 131 podiums, second most. Andretti has 144. Dixon has had 34 podiums in the last four years, so that’s attainable too. In terms of top fives, Dixon has 192. Andretti has 194.

Top 2 now in literally every major statistical category. Championships (2nd), wins (2nd), second place finishes (2nd), podiums (2nd) and top five’s (2nd).

You can’t discredit Dixon as a generational talent.

He can tie Foyt for championships and move past Andretti for top 5’s in 2023.

Power, can rise too. He has 41 wins, which is fifth most ever. Power, has had at least one win for 16 straight years now. Can he get at least two wins next season and move past Michael Andretti for fourth? Since 2010, he’s won at least two races in every year minus three. He won two races both in 2019 and 2020 but had won three times in 2017 and 2018 too. I think he can threaten Andretti’s fourth place ranking in career wins next year.

Castroneves has 31 wins now which is tied for 10th most. His 50 poles is fourth most, three shy of Foyt. His 41 runner-up’s rank third best. His 94 podiums are four shy of  Unser for fifth most.  His 142 top fives are fourth most with seven shy of Foyt for third.

By the end of this season, Castroneves could be alone in with five Indy 500 wins, Dixon could tie Foyt for most championships and Power could be the pole king.

For wins, they rank 2-5-10 right now. For runner-ups, it’s 2-3-12. For podiums, it’s 2-6-7. For top fives, it’s 2-4-9.

These three are wildly underrated for this era.

Will Power celebrates his INDYCAR championship on Sunday. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Consistency Pays

Will Power only won once during his championship winning season of a year ago. Scott Dixon won just twice himself. They both managed to take 2 of the top 3 spots in the championship. How?

Consistency is how.

Factor in Marcus Ericsson’s one win (Indy 500) and Alex Palou having just 1 win and you get 4 of the top 6 in the final standings combined for 5 wins.

On the flipside, Josef Newgarden, Scott McLaughlin and Pato O’Ward each combined for 10 wins between themselves, but only 1 of them finished in the top 4 in points.


Consistency is how.

Dixon led the series with 15 top 10 finishes. Palou and Power each had 13. Ericsson was next with 12.

Newgarden had 5 finishes in 2022 of 13th or worse including 2 being 24th and 25th. McLaughlin also had 5 finishes of 13th or worse but 3 of them were outside the top 20 including 29th in the double points paying Indy 500. You could say that’s the difference then right? Double points. Newgarden and McLaughlin each had bad days. Well, O’Ward was runner-up too that race but also had 7 finishes of 12th or worse with 3 being 24th or worse.

Dixon, Power, Palou and Ericsson minimized their mistakes and when they had cars not capable of winning, they happily lived to see another day and took what the race gave them and what they gave them were top 5’s and 10th.

Which is why I’m watching consistency and how much of a role that this plays into this year’s championship. The path is there if anyone wants to follow it.

Will Power celebrates his 2022 NTT INDYCAR Series championship. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

Veterans vs. Youth

I feel like we talk about this a lot, but it’s true again. Pato O’Ward is only 23 and has a lot of time left to score a championship. Colton Herta is just 22.

They’ll be vying for wins with Rinus VeeKay who’s going to be back for a 4th season with ECR in 2023. He’s only 22. David Malukas is back and is only 21. Christian Lundgaard is the rookie of the year and will be back with RLL again in 2023. He’s also only 21. Kyle Kirkwood shifts over to Andretti Autosport this season. He’s only 24. So is Callum Ilott.

That’s a lot of star power at such a young age that all showed promise again last season. They each had flashes of brilliance and enough to shine brightly in a crowded field.

While saying in one breath the future is bright with young star power, I can also say with the other breath that the veterans aren’t going anywhere either. Alex Palou was the only driver in the top 6 in points last year under the age of 29. 2 of the top 3 in points were in their 40’s signifying that while the youngsters came to play in 2021, the veterans came back in 2022.

Which wins out in 2023…

Youth and Inexperienced Teams Making Gains Or Going Backwards Still

Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Arrow McLaren Racing each return most of their driver lineups. Penske has all three drivers back, Ganassi has 3 of their 4 full-timers returning while McLaren has both drivers from the last two years returning as well as adding Alexander Rossi to the mix.

These teams finished 1-8 in the points a year ago. Now, does the gap grow in 2023 or shrink among those teams chasing them?

Andretti Autosport is next best, but they boast one of the more inexperienced lineups in the paddock. Yes, they have 4 drivers, but combined, 3 of them have 1 full-time season under their belts. Romain Grosjean was part-time in 2021 but moved to his first full-time foray in INDYCAR with Andretti in 2022. He has made 30 career starts.

Devlin DeFrancesco was a rookie last year. Same for Kyle Kirkwood, except he spent his rookie year at Foyt. Each have 17 total INDYCAR starts.

Colton Herta is now the lead man of the group. Is he ready for that? Herta has made more starts himself (65) than the other three (64) combined. He’s also only 22 and the youngest of the grouping as well. As the highest paid driver in the paddock, is he ready for this type of role?

“It’s not much of a difference for me,” Herta said. “Maybe they’ll rely a little bit more on my feedback and I might have to do a little bit more, but for me, it’s kind of business as usual.”

His teammates very much see his data and feedback as a positive and even if Herta isn’t vocal, it’s that aspect to what they consider him the leader of the team.

“I’d say it’s a little bit different with Andretti. I think Colton’s way of saying that he’s like kind of brushed off his leadership role is in a sense that he’s not beating on his chest, like I’m a driver; everyone kind of bows down to me. He’s trying to brush that away,” said Kirkwood.

“But at the end of the day, he’s the one with the most experience, and if he does something, we’re kind of going to ask him the questions, be like, hey, Colton, when you tried this, what exactly happened, because he’s the one with the most experience, and he’s been the most successful driver on the team that we’ve had. It’s a sure thing that we’re going to reference off of him, which in a sense makes him kind of the lead driver, yeah.

“It’s definitely a unique situation, but at the end of the day he’s the one with the most experience. He has a right to be kind of in that position. It’s not a — I’ll say it again, it’s not a position that we’re all expecting him to lead us on track or expecting him to lead us off track and lead us with car development. He’s ultimately our main source of contact really.”

DeFrancesco views Herta as a leader to him and one that benefitted his rookie year greatly.

“Very fast. Very, very fast last year, just looking at his data, some of the qualifying laps he was able to put in were very, very impressive, and definitely someone I’ve been able to lean on and learn from for sure in many different ways, and I’m looking forward to putting that to use this year and making a big step forward.”

Consistency though, is the biggest key to living up to those lofty expectations for the youngster entering his fifth season.

“Yeah, it’s no secret that last year was not a good one for us,” said Herta. “We need to do better on all fronts. That’s what the main part of the off-season has been. It’s been looking at everything and just trying to improve everything.

“We just need mistake-free weekends, and that’s the goal, one by one.”

Grosjean said they found some areas to be stronger in for 2023 while DeFrancesco hopes he can continue his growth from how 2022 ended. For Kirkwood, he feels like he pushed too much to be successful in a car that wouldn’t allow for it. AJ Foyt Racing didn’t have cars capable of winning. But, for the all-time winningest drivers in the Road to Indy history with 31 wins across all three levels of the ladder, being in 20th place was unfamiliar territory. So he pressed and by pressing too hard, he made rookie mistakes.

However, now that he comes to Andretti with a better car, was last year a learning year for experience?

“Yeah, I feel like there’s a lot of people that look at it that way,” he said. “If you look at one of the most successful teams being Penske, they don’t take rookies. That’s kind of how it goes.

“To that point, Colton did the same thing. He was with Harding Racing when he started off. He had a very successful season there with them. But it’s nice to have that transition year, right, where you have — where you’re able to hone in on your skills and learn everything, but even with that being said, last year for me, I was fully focused on doing so well with that team and trying to progress them forward and stuff.

“But now that I’ve gotten into this year now and taken this step back and kind of looked at it, I was like, man, I needed a year to learn and try and hone in on my skills and learn all the different things about INDYCAR that you don’t learn in junior formulas. Biggest thing is pit stops and strategy and having two different types of tires. Those are way different than anything I’ve done.”

They’re not the only ones facing a youthful season. So is Juncos Hollinger Racing who’ll feature a second-year driver and a rookie.

The main thing holding himself back is data. A year ago, Ilott was the only driver competing without a teammate. Doing so as a rookie and with a somewhat new team (Juncos Hollinger Racing), well it was a tall hill to climb, especially with him being new to the United States and these tracks.

“It’s a huge disadvantage, but is what it is,” said team owner Ricardo Juncos of being a single car team last year. “We knew from day one is our situation and we take it.

“Imagine for Callum being a rookie without knowing the tracks, we go to Toronto and we were P7, hundredths off P6, 2/10ths from P1. We were the only one with old reds. Technically we could be front row.

“Being the first time, we have nobody to compare. It’s very hard. We are hypothetically comparing to imagination.

“Having two cars is big advantage. But we know the different. But have to be right, right? Not just because you go to two cars. If it’s not right, it may be worst. That’s the key question here, how we’re going to do it.

“No question being only one-car team in the level of INDYCAR today, everybody can see is a little bit disadvantage. But, like I said, we knew from day one going to be like that so no complaints.”

Now, he has a teammate to bounce ideas off of for the 2023 season. JHR signed Agustin Canapino to be the second driver with the team. That has Ilott happy heading into the season to have that sense of data coming in.

“But yeah, it’s just data for us,” Ilott said. “The closer he is to me and the better he does, the better the team does, so it’s quite important to be able to get that comparison, and I’m sure he’ll do a good job.

“But yeah, it’s data. It’s another car. It’s another item, another option to test items on, so yeah, incredibly important.”

The only drawback to this is, Canapino is a rookie. He’s never raced in these cars, nor these tracks before. How much real data can that give Ilott?

“Let’s see. Let’s see. I mean, Agustin is in a very tough position,” he admitted. “It’s not easy being a rookie, and it’s definitely not easy being a rookie without single seater experience, so I’m very interested to see how he gets on. I’m going to do my best to help him as much as possible, especially over the next few days here.

“It’s a tough one because of the position that he’s in. It’s a bit of an unknown for me, for the team, for the championship, because for sure he’s quick. But again, it’s a real really tough thing to jump into.

“So I really — I’m a bit nervous for him, and I admire the jump because it’s not easy to do. Obviously Scott McLaughlin has done it in, shall we say, a different environment, but he’s done it, and Agustin has that background but from Argentina.

“It’s more I have to wait and see where we’re at and what we’re doing because it could be more of a data thing or it could be really something that we can work together as a team and build off of.

“But I know it’s definitely not easy as a rookie, but then taking my own experience, we worked really well together as a one-car operation compared to big four-, five-car operations, and sometimes we kick their ass.

“But that gives me the confidence that no matter what, I can kind of work with what we’ve got and do a good job with it.”

AJ Foyt Racing also enters with a young group. Rookie Benjamin Pedersen is only 23. Santino Ferrucci is just 24. However, they feel like changes made this offseason for the program has propelled them forward.

Dale Coyne Racing enters as the youngest team of all.

With the addition of Sting Ray Robb (No. 51 Dallara-Honda) as a teammate to David Malukas in the No. 18 HMD entry, the Dale Coyne Racing team will have the youngest driver lineup in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, with both drivers born in September of 2001. Is that too young?

I don’t necessarily think so.

“Yeah, I think we’re the youngest duo, right? It’s definitely a different dynamic from what I had last year with Takuma, but I think it’s going to be good,” Malukas said.

“From what I’ve heard, his driving style is very similar to mine. He used a very similar setup in Sebring when he tested. I think we’ll work very well together, and I’ve had little moments where we’ve raced with each other in the past, so I’m really excited to get the season forward. It’s just interesting to me that I’m supposedly now the veteran of the group. I definitely don’t feel like one.

“Now that it’s two young guns, there’s going to be two young guys trying to prove themselves. I think it’s going to help a lot with the both of us kind of pushing each other. Our driving styles, like I said earlier, are very similar, so we’ll be able to piggy-back and use each other’s data.

“But the environment with the team is all going to be roughly the same. I think the way we’ve done it previously, I don’t think it’s going to create conflict, and if anything, I think it’ll just create, I’d say, a more humorous environment with two young people and our younger jokes being able to make sense to each other.”

Alex Palou celebrates his win in Monterey last season. Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site


Helio Castroneves and Tony Kanaan have been doing this for a while. Each are back in the series again in 2023. Castroneves is full-time. Kanaan is an Indy only participant. But, is this year their final years that they’ll show up? We already know it is for Kanaan, what about Castroneves?

For the 47-year-old Castroneves, this too is the final year of his contract with Meyer Shank Racing. Some have started to speculate that Tom Blomqvist, Castroneves’ Rolex 24 teammate with MSR, would swap roles with Helio in 2024.

“First of all, it’s too early to say,” Castroneves said of that discussion. “Second, I don’t want anything more than great things for this team. This team is incredible. They continue to grow as much as — they already stamped that they’re not just a small team. They stamped that they’re an incredible team, that things amazing about to happen in the future.

“Tom, come on, the kid is a superstar. He’s really quick. I feel that he did — he’s doing an amazing job. Last year he did a great job; this year continued doing it.

“Let’s see. Everything happens and falls natural. But as of right now, it’s too early in the season to predict and think what’s going to happen.

“Our goal is to have a phenomenal result with MSR so that we can show what this team is capable.

“Look, I just won Daytona 24-hour. Do you think I’m thinking retiring right now? There is no — there isn’t a thought of that.

“Look, also the same thing it repeats. It has to feel natural. I can’t force myself. I can’t put a number or date that I can say this is it.

“As of right now, I am enjoying very much what I’m doing. I’m about to start a great season with INDYCAR, and my mind is only thinking about that. I’m just going to continue working and get that result that I really want, that I know I’m capable and I know what the team is capable. Whatever happens in the future remains to be seen.”

These aren’t the only two who’s future is worth watching. Jack Harvey enters a make-or-break season with RLL. He do so after an abysmal year in 2022 with them.

“I feel like you summed it up pretty well there really,” he says of his future. “In a lot of ways — every year is a big year, and in a lot of ways I feel past that. I’ve just accepted that. No matter what’s happening, every year is a big year, and the mindset or my mindset right now is just the focus is on Thermal, and then once we finish there, we’re going to try and take what we’ve learnt and see how we apply it to St. Pete, and then just one race at a time, one test at a time, and whatever is coming up is going to be our most important session, race, race weekend.

“At that point the future will figure itself out. At the end of the day last year I wasn’t satisfied team with the results we had. The team weren’t happy either, but we shared that mutual desire to have success.

“At that point I think we all would be happy if we were able to carry on.

“Look, at the end of the day, motorsports, sports is results-based, so we’ve got to go out and get them. I don’t see that as any more pressure. I love what I get to do. I think I’m one of the luckiest people in the world to get to do this and call it a job.

“While it’s an opportunity to do it, I’m going to keep giving it my all until there isn’t one.”

Another situation worth watching is the Alex Palou and Felix Rosenqvist saga.

It’s no secret, Palou is likely headed to Arrow McLaren in 2024. He just has to get through this season. As a result, Rosenqvist is likely the odd man out. How does he enter this season knowing that it could look for him, a lot like last year’s in terms of his future.

“I mean, first of all, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. That’s a long time until next year,” he noted on Tuesday morning.

“As I said, I think it’s a great opportunity for me. I’m in a good spot. I’m in a well-performing team, not only in Arrow McLaren but my 6 car I think is going to be strong this year. I feel well with everyone around me. I feel like I have a good support from the team to go and perform.

“I don’t really think too much about that stuff. I just try to do what I can do, which is go fast forward and try to win races.”

He said what gives him reason for optimism is on how he responded to this exact situation a year ago.

“I think it went pretty well, to be honest,” Rosenqvist said on how he responded to last year’s uncertainty and adversity in his career. “I think I handled it probably as good as I could. That’s probably a reason why I’m here this year.

“I think it’s a massive opportunity for me to be back for a third year. I feel like I have all the tools I need to perform, feeling very good with everyone at the car. As I said, there’s so many things happening last year on and off the track. I think as a team, we just really learned a lot from that that we can bring into this season.

“I think we’ll be tough this year. We have a lot of things in the bag to try early this season. A couple of things here at Thermal we want to try. Going into the season, we have pinpointed some areas where we feel we were lacking a little bit, like the short ovals, for example.

“I feel like we’ve done the best we can to attack all those areas and bring the best possible package we can going into the season.”

For Palou, he says that the relationship on his side with his current employer is a lot better than it was last year.

“It’s been good since everything was set week after Laguna. The relationship has been back to 100% like it was before from both sides.

“Yeah, I had full access since then. Been at the workshop many, many times before I left for Europe for Christmas, once we’ve been back to prepare all the pre-season and stuff.

“Yeah, I don’t expect anything.

“Then in regards to sharing time between both parties, we set it in the way that will be focused on INDYCAR during the INDYCAR season, then once it’s done and once we try and get to 100%, then I’ll be focused on the other side.”

As far as how hard it was to block out the feelings aspect of this last year?

“Yeah, obviously there’s always some moments where you’re like, Oh, no, my God, this is not going the direction I wanted.

“But there was things that were out of my control obviously. Some things that I could control, as well. But at the end of the day I had all the information from my side, from other sides. I knew that everything could be settled, and it did. So, yeah, I’m just happy it did.

“I mean, I didn’t have another option, so… Either you’re good or not, that’s what you have to do.”

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